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November 18, 2013

Obama, Key Senators to Discuss Iran Nuclear Negotiations

by Dan Robinson

President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet Tuesday with senators to discuss negotiations between the U.S. and other P5+1 nations, and Iran, over its nuclear program, and a proposal for a modest easing of sanctions.

Obama still faces skepticism from lawmakers who have objected to the notion of any premature easing of sanctions.

Lawmakers are also concerned about Israel.  In recent statements, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against making a "very bad deal" with Tehran.

Obama meets Tuesday with the U.S. Senate leadership, and the Democratic chairmen and top Republicans on the banking, foreign relations, armed services and intelligence committees.

As the next round of talks with Iran approach, the White House is repeating familiar points about the "first phase" agreement the P5+1 is attempting to negotiate with Iran.

Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama believes Congress should permit a "pause" on any new sanctions so that Iran's seriousness can be tested.

"Taking the necessary concrete steps so that the international community is absolutely confident, in a verifiable, transparent, way that they have forsaken their nuclear weapons ambitions," he said.

Visiting Israel, French President Francois Hollande said sanctions must be maintained unless Iran definitively renounces nuclear weapons.  Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.  

At the State Department Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. respects "vigorous debate" added that the P5+1 group, and others need to remain united in pursuit of the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"The bottom line is that we all agree, all of us, that there must be a verifiable, certain, failsafe process by which the guarantee of not getting a nuclear weapon is clear to all," he said. "That means our friends in Israel, that mean our friends in the region, and that of course means all of us here in the United States and the U.S. Congress."

Press Secretary Carney Monday described as "significantly exaggerated" reports that the value of sanctions relief discussed with Iran could be in the range of $40 billion to $50 billion.

Saying any relief would be "modest" and "reversible," he was pressed again about what one reporter called the obvious "breach" between the U.S. and Israel.

"I think everyone, and I think the prime minister said this, believes that we should explore whether or not this can be resolved peacefully, that is obviously a preference for everyone and it is our view that the process we have in place with the P5+1 is the best way to explore that possibility," he said.

Carney insisted again that there is no "daylight" between the U.S. and Israel on the end goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  

Asked if information sharing with Israel included all details of the negotiations, Carney said only that the U.S. consults with Israel regularly, and shares a significant amount of information on a variety of issues.